Jamaal McCoy set an ambitious goal for himself after becoming general manager at Findlay Chevrolet in April 2011: change the culture of the 125-employee store.
Financially, the dealership had been doing OK while nursing itself back to health after the financial crisis and General Motors' 2009 bankruptcy. But McCoy says the store "had become a place that wasn't fun to work at." And that feeling was rubbing off on the customers.
Fewer than 15 percent of the customers who purchased vehicles from Findlay were returning for service. The service department's customer-satisfaction index had slipped below 75 percent.
McCoy, who had been the store's general sales manager for three years, thought a core problem was a lack of interaction between departments.
"There was too much separation and isolation," McCoy recalls. "Sales, service, parts, finance -- nobody was talking to one another." That led to poor sales-to-service handoffs, for example, which McCoy believed was mostly to blame for the store's poor service retention.
Soon after taking over as general manager, McCoy implemented monthly orientation meetings. New hires are required to attend, along with managers from each department. Veteran employees must attend occasionally, too.
"It helps to have people get to know each other," McCoy says. "Now someone in F&I knows that a porter does more than just park cars."
To tackle the service-retention problem, McCoy began requiring sales staff to walk the buyer down to the parts and service departments for introductions to managers.
To improve the customer experience, McCoy instituted a "5-and-10" rule: If a customer is within 5 feet, employees should say hello and ask if the person needs help. Within 10 feet, a wave or smile and head nod will do. It's a technique that Chevy dealers have been taught in recent training workshops with Walt Disney Co.
McCoy says the little things have added up to big results. Today nearly 40 percent of its customers are returning for service. The service department's customer-satisfaction rating has risen to around 90 percent.
Through May, sales are up 53 percent from a year earlier, to 743 units.
McCoy, who played defensive end at Colorado Mesa University and played a few seasons in the Arena Football League, isn't satisfied. He wants to increase customer-pay service sales by more than 30 percent this year.
"We focus on taking care of the customers we already have," McCoy says, "and turning them into raving fans."
-- Mike Colias